Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Learning Outside of School #sol16

Two Saturday mornings ago, I received an email from a parent in my class. My student had been inspired by a school assembly called "Bash the Trash", where musicians used recyclable materials to make musical instruments. The buzz from many of the teachers, including myself, was that the assembly was a little quirky and not our favorite. Some of us felt ourselves being lulled to sleep as the recyclable instruments were played. But you just never know what is going to resonate with a student and this assembly really did for one boy in my class. 

With his dad's help, he created musical instruments out of soda and water bottles and cans taped together. He wanted to make a video of himself playing his instruments and his dad even joined him in the concert. Then, he wanted his dad to send ME the video. It was adorable, but also made me stop and think about the nature of learning in today's world:

  • We need to give kids lots of different experiences, including ones that involve the arts and creating, because you just never know what will impact a child.
  • When a student is excited about learning, that excitement carries over to home and time outside of school.
  • Students today view video as an important method of expressing themselves and seek the feedback they get when others watch their video.
  • Students are looking for ways to connect their school world and home world.
When we came back to school on Monday, I showed the class the video and my student answered their questions about the instruments he made very proudly. I could see other students thinking about ways they might try that, too. Yet another understanding: Students learn from their peers and are motivated by seeing what their peers create. 

Now, connection to my non-teaching life. Yesterday was one of those busy days after school where a dentist appointment led me to picking up my children after 5pm from my parents' house. By the time we got home, my son had asked to use the iPad and I still had to make dinner, so I said he could for a few minutes. Usually, any kind of homework or letter practice is a struggle (my son is in preschool) and he does not like to do it. Imagine my shock, then, as I sat down to eat dinner in the kitchen, Alex enters with a paper full of words. He had put the iPad away on his own (?!) and decided to surprise me with all the words he knows how to write. There were some exclamation marks and punctuation marks on the page, too. From the look on his face, I could see how proud and excited he was. Self-directed learning, outside of school hours. 


So how do we make this happen more, for more kids? Today, the Shared Decision Making Team at my school will be discussing summer learning for kids and how we can help them to keep reading, writing, and practicing math facts. How can we find ways to inspire them to keep learning? I would love to hear your thoughts on learning outside the school day and creating opportunities for kids in the summer.